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Lotus Omega. The performance saloon sports car that overshadowed the BMW M5

PHOTOS LOTUS OMEGA: BONHAMS / LOTUS CARS

The decade of the 80 was, possibly, the last time full of excesses in the automotive world. Dominated by rising horsepower and expanding turbo, the vehicles of that moment seemed to have no limit in the midst of a technological escalation only slowed by the collapse of the stock markets at the beginning of the following decade. In that sense, by 1990 not only were sports like the Lamborghini Diablo or the Bugatti EB110. The popular segments were also experiencing the power boom with the GTIs in the compact and the sports saloons in the more familiar environment.

In this climb, extreme models such as the Safrane Biturbo appeared, with which the peaceful French saloon was transformed into a missile with 268CV and all-wheel drive. However, within the segment the BMW M5 undoubtedly reigned supreme. A perfectly balanced sports saloon, where comfort and performance went hand in hand after strange experiments like the 767IL "Goldfish”V16. A reign that was called into question in the most unexpected way, bringing together two brands in the same project that, a priori, had nothing to do with each other. All with the leadership of General Motors, under which the Lotus Omega project was launched.

Arising from the union between the popular Opel and the select Lotus, the Lotus Omega seriously threatened to be the flagship of sports saloons thanks to its 284 kms / h of top speed and 0 to 100 in 5 seconds. Figures that endangered those of the M5, widely surpassing other competitors such as the Lancia Thema 8.32 or the Saab 9000 Turbo. Rivals that, however, were not as responsible for the end of the Lotus Omega as the economic recession of the 126.000s. A time when paying what today would be about XNUMX euros was something quite decisive.

omega lotus

LOTUS OMEGA. A SPORTS CAR UNDER THE UMBRELLA OF THE GENERAL MOTORS

In the mid-eighties, the Lotus situation was not the best possible. With the shelves full of a great record and some engineering jobs as a consultant for other brands, the company founded by Colin Chapman was desperately selling itself to the highest bidder. Moment in which General Motors absorbs it. Something that, a priori, may seem uninteresting but that, in that prosperous decade, was a minor operation for the American giant. A purchase in which they not only stayed with a highly prestigious brand, but also with all the innovation potential displayed by their daring engineers.

omega lotus

A potential that they used to take one of the group's flagships further: the Opel Omega. Acquired by General Motors in 1929, Opel was for decades the European platform of the American conglomerate. A brand focused on practical vehicles, with few sports whims but that, thanks to the Lotus Omega, it was catapulted to a leading position in performance in the sports saloon segment. For this they used the Opel Omega 3000 as a base, the top of the range model capable of producing 204CV thanks to its six-cylinder with three liters of displacement.

omega lotus

A good starting point for the Lotus engineers, who went to work to improve various aspects. The first of them the engine, increasing the displacement to 3 liters. An improvement that raised the power to 380CV thanks to the help of the two Garrett turbos. In addition, the contemporary Corvette's six-speed manual gearbox was incorporated. A necessary change to be able to manage torque of up to 560Nm. All this finished off with a series of aerodynamic appliqués brand of the house. And it is that, after all, the personality of Lotus had to come out somewhere since in weight there was no special treatment.

LOTUS OMEGA. THE ACE OF THE HIGHWAYS

Obviously, when we talk about sportsmanship, we assume that there are multiple ways of understanding it. While for Lotus this was based on small vehicles with the weight reduced to the minimum expression, for the segment of sports saloons the benefits were seen more at cruising speeds than in cornering. Marked by comfort as much as by power, any sports saloon has as a natural space the straight lines of the motorways. That is why Lotus had to make an adaptation effort when developing the Lotus Omega.

omega lotus

Such a generous effort that it even placed him in the middle of the controversy. First of all because many motoring journalists called for the model's power limitation. Frightened by its benefits, they saw these incomprehensible in the framework of a saloon a priori far from any competitive stage on the circuit. What's more, the debate was fueled when the Lotus Omega jumped to the front page of the black chronicle. And it is that, almost doubling in power to the Opel Senators dedicated to pursuits by the police, a gang of robbers carried out numerous successful assaults in this sports saloon that overshadowed the BMW M5.

omega lotus

However, when this happened, two years had passed since production of the Lotus Omega ceased in 1992. Only two years in which a little less than a thousand units were produced, about two-thirds under the sale in Opel dealers and another third in subsidiaries of Vauxhall, the German brand name in the United Kingdom. Shortly after, the price of this sports saloon plummeted from its original price comparable to the entry-level Ferraris of the time. Now, 31 years after its introduction, its revaluation (like this unit for sale at the Bonhams auction house) it has brought him up to par with the growing interest in the Preclassics. The testimony of the unexpected union between Lotus and Opel.

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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